In a meeting on Thursday, October 4, 2018, the Athens-Clarke County Board of Elections was notified of an error on some absentee ballots that included the election for Georgia State Senate 46th District. Approximately 300 absentee voters in State Senate District 46 had received absentee ballots before Board of Elections staff learned of the error. The ballot listed the candidates for that office as Bill Cowsert, (Incumbent) Republican; Marisue Hilliard, Democrat; and John Fortuin, Independent. While Fortuin did not qualify as an Independent candidate, he did qualify as a write-in candidate. Write-in candidate’s names do not appear on a ballot according to law.
The Georgia Secretary of State Elections Division provides ballots for every election to the ACC Board of Elections. The creation of a ballot includes information related to qualifying candidates and other pertinent election data. Immediately upon discovery, the Elections Division reported the error to the Athens-Clarke County Board of Elections, which began making provisions for rectifying the error as follows.
Georgia law provides that if the correction is feasible and practicable under circumstances, an election superintendent who discovers a mistake or omission on printed official ballots or in the programming of the display of the official ballot on voting equipment for any primary or election shall take such steps as necessary to correct such mistake or omission. The superintendent must provide at least 24 hours’ notice to the Georgia Secretary of State and all candidates affected by the mistake or omission prior to making such correction; such notice was sent on Thursday, October 4 via phone and U.S. Mail.
At an Emergency Special Called Session on Thursday, October 4, the Athens-Clarke County Board of Elections, acting as Election Superintendent, met to address the ballot issue. The board authorized and instructed the Director of Elections and Voter Registration to send corrected ballots to all voters who received the incorrect ballot and to include instructions for using the corrected ballot instead of the ballot sent previously, which had a mailing date of September 19, 2018, and returning the corrected ballot to the Board of Elections.
The instructions also advise that if a voter has already returned an incorrect absentee ballot, the voter must complete the corrected ballot and return it for tabulation instead. However, the Board of Elections will tabulate in accordance with standard procedures any incorrect ballots received, if a corrected ballot is not returned before 7:00 p.m. election night, with the exception for votes recorded on incorrect ballots for Georgia State Senate from the 46th District – those votes for that race only will not be counted. The Board of Elections will count all absentee ballots received by 7:00 p.m. on election night.
Voters will receive notification of this matter via U.S. Mail. In addition, the Board of Elections staff will contact all affected voters who have furnished telephone numbers or email addresses to advise them of the incorrect ballot and the steps that they may take to return a correct ballot.
For more information, contact the Athens-Clarke County Board of Elections at 706-613-3150 or visit www.accgov.com/elections.
Release updated 10.11.2018 to correct a candidate name misspelling.